29 September 2013

Knee deep

I'm writing this one tonight sitting at my 'new' (to me) drawing table/desk. I got it in sad circumstances: it was very kindly given to me by a neighbour; it had belonged to her late husband and she didn't want it thrown out and I think she was glad to see it going to a good home. I'm delighted with it. It gives me space to have some drawing(s) on the go, while still having the laptop to hand for this class of thing; it has history: it must be over 30 years old and R had it from the time he was a student; it fits, just about, in my tiny room; and when I'm sitting at it, I'm looking out at my garden and the sky. Not bad!

A table of one's own
Although that picture is dark, you'll see the garden looks bright - in a late September Dublin! There's been some sort of low pressure zone sitting south west of Ireland that has kept a southerly airflow from the tropics coming across the island and we've had temperatures in the high teens and 20s. We've had mists too, rising off the local playing fields when Izzy and I walk just around dawn, and heavy dews, but the warmth is a gift. And this weather shortens the winter, which is a huge bonus for those of us who find the dark days hard. 

But in that lovely way that gardens have of always pulling your mind forward, it was definitely bulb-time this week. In other years, I've limited my bulb-planting to pots, and then placed the pots where I can see them from the windows at the back of the house, but this year I decided some changes had to be wrought and bulbs were a part of that. I've three birches in the tiny front garden, the smallest bit of woodland you're likely to find anywhere, and for many years, the ground beneath the trees has been covered with ivy through which inherited bulbs (of daffodils and narcissi) would struggle each spring. So, I decided to rip up a fair bit of the ivy and plant more bulbs in there, in the hope that there'll be more to see next Spring. Ultimately, I'd like to get some Trilliums and the like in there too, but I'm taking it one step at a time. There was a *lot* of ivy and some very tenacious herbaceous geraniums (thanks for the hard work on digging them up, B), but we managed and now the area is home to new daffs, narcissi, Iris reticulata and snowdrops. I don't know how many of them will survive: I couldn't plant them as deeply as they should go as a tightly woven tangle of ivy and birch tree roots made the going tough, but I compensated by adding a layer of our own compost on the top. 

And now... I wait. A little anticipation is a lovely thing. 

These cyclamen appeared when I pulled back the heavy carpet of ivy; I'd planted them years ago but for quite some time they've been the flower that bloomed unseen ... it's great to see them again
Of course, trying to get compost for the bulbs meant a marathon task of turning the heap (sort of) to get to the delicious, dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling stuff at the bottom. So there I was, yesterday and today, just about knee-deep in compost, shifting it with a fork, digging it out with a spade, lugging it to the front of the house and then later to some of the beds in the back. In a 'proper' (read bigger) garden, I'd have enough space to have a few compost heap enclosures on the go and could turn one heap into the next enclosure up, but that's never going to work in the one corner available down at the back of the greenhouse. So there's a lot of faffing and moving bits of half-rotted material around before I can get to the good stuff. But it's worth it. 

By the way, does anyone else find surprises when they go down around the back of their greenhouse? The one I found today was a bag of seriously smelly seaweed rotting away... a friend gave it to me in the summer and I'd completely forgotten about it. It smelt vile and looked worse, but it's full of good things and it's now buried safely in the reconsituted compost heap along with some fresh comfrey: my fond hope is that they'll both kick-start the heap again over the coming weeks. 

Easier on the back and arms was planting up a broken pot (the frost a couple of winters ago broke the rim off) with some Sempervivums; it's sitting on the edge of the pool now as the small Picea that was there has taken up duty with a couple of other pots at the front of the house. 

Sempervivums (let's hope they live up to their name) move in

Sempervivums in their new home. 
So, there was a lot of work out in the garden and at the new drawing table this week (I'm trying to work out if I can render the yew tree drawing in colour) so a walk in the woods was called for. 

And there we found that in spite of the unseasonal weather, autumn will have its way:

A burnished beech leaf lands on the safety net of Polystichum (spot the spider keeping it company)

Bracket fungi in the autumn woods

Still lovely, even after a dry summer: the Glencullen river
Have a good week all.


  1. Great post, Erica! Wonderful that you are able to keep using a well-loved drawing table and fun to have that space to work. Your garden is just beautiful.

    1. Thanks Carol. The table is great and having used it for a week, I can't imagine how I worked in a smaller space :-).

  2. I enjoyed this post. You have a superb spot for your desk - perfect for staring and daydreaming. Lovely Cyclamen - you seem to be having a time of discovery what with Cyclamen and seaweed, although I must confess to being a little bit jealous that you have the kind of friends who collect seaweed for you - what a gift!

    1. Thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed it! The desk is in a good spot, mind you, it's also the only spot in the small room that it would fit. The seaweed was a lovely gift. We saw seaweed used well in a gorgeous Donegal garden earlier this year (http://ericasgarden.blogspot.ie/2013/08/the-road-to-god-knows-where.html) - small raised ridges for vegetable growing, piled on top of seaweed, and at the end of each growing season, the ridge is moved and re-assembled on top of a new layer of seaweed. Very labour-intensive but very effective in poor soil.

  3. It's always been my dream ...to have a huge drawing table in front of a window with garden views. I do have a sort of desk/ drawing table , but the windows in our mid-century house are annoyingly too high.so I have to stand up to see any thing...not the same.

    1. With this drawing table, I can sit or stand when I draw or write. Nice to have the choice. May be a desk like that would be useful for you too linda?

  4. Lovely post as always Erica, how lovely too have your desk in such a creative and inspiring spot with a great view of your garden.